Archive for the ‘waun fach’ Tag

The Long Way Around   12 comments

Last time we had a weekend day seemingly without rain. I was on my own for the day so set out early (by my standards) for a long walk in the Black Mountains. I parked up at Pont Cadwgan and headed up the forest tracks deciding to add in Crug Mawr as an extra option due to the bright morning and the fact its a fine hill.

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Not quite as clear and sunny as the forecast had indicated but dry and that’s what matters especially with the appalling 2-3 weeks of rain that followed.

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Crug Mawr doesn’t seem to attract many walkers and I rarely see more than a couple of people up here or on the long ridge that comes down from the high points of the Black Mountains.

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I has my first sit down for the day, actually quite pleased for the breeze as it had been a bit hot and airless on the walk up.

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Onwards towards those high points I mentioned. This ridge is normally a pretty wet and muddy affair but it was bone dry. Likely it’s returned to business as usual in the meantime.

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A spell of brighter sunnier weather drew me onwards until I reached Pen y Gadair Fawr.

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Time for another stop as its a few miles along from Crug Mawr.

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Next stop Waun Fach, highest of the Black Mountains. They have worked wonders in restoring the grassland up here. The path is now much less boggy and there are huge swathes of grass where once was just black bog. The Trig Pillar on the top used to be lost in sea of peat but now stands proud next to a path through the greenery. Sadly the plague of trail bikes are still leaving their trail of damage elsewhere. The National Park really need to more to do educate and restrict them although I’m not sure how.

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Onwards to the northern escarpment for a bite to eat before turning and taking the long route back down the other side of the Gwryne valley

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This is looking along the ridge to Chwarel y Fan

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It turned quite cloudy and cool for a while so my last stop on the top was a brief one.

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I really like the ridge from here to Bal Mawr. Not narrow but airy enough to expose some grand views.

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A close up shot of Llanthony and its priory.

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Not sure what these trees are – flora and fauna are not my strong point – but they were all in flower all over the lower slopes and looked wonderful both from a distance and close up.

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Just a matter of picking my way down to and through the forest and back to the car feeling weary and foot sore. Hardly surprising as my mapping software said 20 miles! As far as I’ve walked in a day for a very long time. I was quite pleased with myself.

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Winter Was Here   14 comments

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Back a couple of weeks to a time of cold weather, frosts and snow. Time to pack away the summer rucksack, bring out the winter version and fill it with winter mitts, bothy bag and down jacket. Slight overkill for the Black Mountains but you can’t be too careful.

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Started off beautiful clear and frosty with a strong wind and a deep chill in the air.

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The walk along the ridge beyond Castell Dinas is excellent and referred to as the Dragons Back locally. Whilst that’s overstating things a bit, it is a very nice way to reach the main Black Mountains summit of Waun Fach.

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The views back to Mynydd Troed, our target for the second half of the day were superb.

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Looking along the ridge to Waun Fach.

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And down the valley towards Crickhowell.

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See, I told you we needed winter gear!

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Just after we left the summit of Waun Fach we were hit by a serious snow shower. Proper winter conditions in the air if not on the ground (the snow was wet and thin)

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There was a Mountain Marathon in progress with lots of people wandering about in shorts and Lycra in what was a blizzard and temperatures well below freezing with wind-chill. Definitely not the weather to be spending a night in a bivvy bag (or dressed in lycra for that matter).

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The snow melted pretty much immediately, the skies cleared and we found a nice spot behind a wall for lunch.

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I’ve walked this route many times as a shortish half-day but this time wanted to make a longer circuit.

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We picked a route off the hills and along the lanes down to the village of Waun Fach (not the mountain) and up towards Mynydd Troed (my first ever mountain ascent when I was ten for those that don’t know that story).

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There was a major fire on the mountain in the dry summer and you can see traces of it in the left of the shot below.

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And as we climbed up onto the ridge.

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But the scale of the damage wasn’t apparent until we were near the top.

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What used to be a dense covering of knee-deep moss and heather had been stripped bare by the fire. All that remained was the grass on the path which I assumed was fresh re-growth.

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In places there wasn’t even that and it looked desolate and bare. The plants up here are pretty resilient so I hope that in time it will recover.

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The weather had closed in a bit and there wasn’t much in the way of sunshine. We did get some nice sunlight streaming through the clouds over Llangorse Lake and the Brecon Beacons

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We didn’t linger on the top as it was ferociously windy and bitingly cold. We took our leave plunged down the steep NE ridge down to the car

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A good 12 mile stretch of wild winter walking

Mynydd Troed

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I like winter walking and I enjoyed this very early blast of cold and snow. Pity the weekend just gone was back to typical November, all gloom and mild wet drizzle

Another Solo Wild Camp   18 comments

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Back a couple of weeks before the weather turned too hot to venture into the outdoors with a heavy pack, I took another Friday night out in the mountains. I wished for a bit of breeze to keep temperatures and insects at bay and certainly got my wish.

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A glorious evening of clear skies and warm sunshine. I chatted to a lady van-camping in the car park with her very friendly Jack Russell pup chewing my laces. No sign of the promised breeze as I set off.

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It was a hot climb through the fly infested bracken as I headed for a summit pitch on Pen y Gadair Fawr. Still no breeze and I felt that the midges were eying me up for a buffet supper

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As I crested the top, the breeze finally kicked in. Less a breeze than a very significant and very chilly wind that I was struggling to stand up in

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It would have made a superb summit camp, lots of flat thick grass but it was just too cold to enjoy the surroundings. I’d also hoped to pick up some water, figuring that at least one of the numerous springs that rise on the summit would be running. No such luck. I decided press on in the hope of finding a sheltered spot

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Trouble its a pretty exposed spot up here and the wind was roaring and grass is in short supply. The compensation was that it was cool and walking along a high level ridge in the late evening is a simple joy

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The bog cotton was giving everything an almost frost-like feeling. The photos can’t do justice to how beguiling it was

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They have massively improved the paths up here so I made swift progress over Waun Fach without ever finding a respite from the wind. I tried a few grassy groughs, but none were suitable

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Eventually I had to plunge a hundred metres or so down the Y Grib Ridge and found a sort of level pitch on a terrace of deep lush grass. What it lacked in comfort it more than made up for with a  superb sunset vista

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There was just enough wind to keep the insects at bay without it being too cold and I sat outside, read and drank many brews of tea before turning in well past 11pm

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Tough to tear yourself away from views like this

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I expected a blazing sun to cook the tent and have me outside early. I awoke at 8am with no sign of the sun. I was in the cloud again. Looking up was clear blue though and the sky was surely to clear and on queue as the water boiled for my last cuppa before I ran out of water, it did

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It was an amazing morning. The east wind had cleared any haze from the air and the sky between the wispy clouds was a deep azure blue. Pen y Fan and Beacons poked above the cloud and I thought of TBF on her 25 mile sponsored walk around the range. She was on Pen y Fan summit round about the time I too this photo

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I decided to walk all around the escarpment to Lord Hereford’s Knob and on a day like this it was amazing. It really puts a spring in the step to have views like this to accompany you and I covered the ground swiftly

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There were several D of E groups out most of whom seemed cheerfully incompetent, walking in various directions none which seemed to be the right one!

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I topped out on the Knob and where the panorama across the Wye valley is breathtaking

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Despite the glorious day I had this very popular and easily accessible summit to myself but it was still very windy and bit chilly. Added to the fact I’d not had breakfast and had no water pushed me onwards to resupply and take on calories

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I had to walk much further down the Nant Bwch stream before the water was flowing sufficiently well to be drinkable. I found a fine spot and set about making my bacon sandwiches and several cups of tea to re-hydrate

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I had thought about dropping down to Capel y Ffin and walking back over the ridge to the car. The fact that out of the wind it was still really hot had me thinking of a better plan. I retraced my steps back toward the edge and the curved off towards the summit of Twyn Talycefn.

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The strong breeze was keeping the skies clear and the temperatures perfect for walking. Much better to be up high in weather like this

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Looking back to the ridge I’d walked the previous evening

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I dropped down to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir with an idea of a sneaky swim.

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I don’t normally like swimming in reservoirs as they do have their dangers but I found a stunning little spot on the banks and took a short dip without straying too far into the water.

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Another cup of tea seemed in order as I felt like I had the whole place to myself.

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Then it was a simple matter of the long walk back down past the dam to the car

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A nice easy angled path to finish the day with grand views back to the dam and the deep greens of the valley under the still totally clear sky

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Another superb one-nighter although I would have enjoyed a bit of company as I’ve done most of this years trips solo. 15-16 miles over the two days with the aimless wandering I did looking for a pitch and just enjoying being out.

Black Mountain Backpack

May be the last such trip for a while. The last couple of weeks have been just too hot and sultry for walking so I’ve been getting my exercise in the water with some wild swimming, more of which in future posts. Then its holiday time for me and the family as we head to Wales and France for some sociable fun with friends

 

White on Black   16 comments

Last week, winter arrived in the UK. Temperatures fell and so did the snow. Time to get up early and head out for some winter walking. Me and TJS were off into the Black Mountains for a walk over its highest summits in the hope there would be some snow. There was!

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The drive up the long valley of Gwryne Fawr was very snowy, pleased I took the 4WD and not the small car! The car park was covered and there was deep powdery snow everywhere. Splendid

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We decided to head up the valley first and return over the tops as I prefer a steep descent rather than the other way around

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There was a watery blue sky and some weak sunshine and it felt great be walking on snow. Despite the first snowy weekend there was hardly anyone about

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The valley has a reservoir and dam and it’s always further up here than I remember

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We found a lower path right along the shore that was rather nice and we hoped would take us all the way to the bothy for a look-see (I’ve never been in)

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The path became narrower and much closer to the lake. With all the snow there was a distinct possibility of a slip becoming a rather wet and cold one!

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Eventually the path vanished altogether and we gave up on the bothy and headed back up to the track

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As we reached the northern escarpment of the Black Mountains the wind picked up and we matched with an increased pace. There were a few stretches of path improvements, likely due to the serious damage trail bikes have been doing up here. Even with a covering of snow you could see their tracks. Hopefully the damage can be repaired but it will cost a fortune.

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We reached Waun Fach – highest point in the Black Mountains – paused, and quickly moved on. The skies had turned grey and it’s a pretty bleak spot

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We pushed on towards Pen y Gadair Fawr which despite being more prominent and always looking higher than Waun Fach is actually 30 feet lower. We found a sheltered spot for lunch among the snow-filled groughs

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We’d made very quick time, we were earlier than expected and it was only a short steep drop back down to the car. We’d had our fill though, experienced some winter walking in the snow so were happy. Time to head home for a hot drink and a hearty meal

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Waun Fach

10 miles and 1,900 feet of ascent (courtesy of a high start) in just over four hours including stops. Impressive (for me!)

Snow from nowhere   6 comments

It caught me off guard did this day. Forecast was for sunshine and showers but I hadn’t checked the temperatures. As we drove out towards the Black Mountains all was white on the tops. I thought we’d seen the end of the snow but no – there was more.

This is another of my favourite routes, one I’ve done many times before, the most recent here. However TJS has never done this route and he was up for it. For a cold wintery day it’s ideal, high enough to get up into the snow, short enough that it’s not too far if you get a soaking.

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Which is exactly what happened to my DSLR camera when it fell out of the boot of the car into a puddle when I opened it. Luckily it was in it’s case so it’s just fine although the case still has the mud marks

Narrow-ish ridges are a rarity in South Wales. Y Grib is one to be treasured. We were soon on it’s crest and heading up into the snow. It was a bitingly cold day but with that clarity of air that comes with a showery winter day.

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Everything looked white up high. There was only a couple of inches of snow but it covered everything.

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

The cloud came down and swamped us while we were on the summit but no matter. The edges are much better viewpoints in the Black Mountains than the summits.

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

It was too cold linger so we rushed on heading down and looking for somewhere for lunch. We found one at the col before Mynydd Llysiau although it was a little bleak and draughty especially for TJS as I’d forgotten his hot chocolate. He took it well, probably better than I would have done had the roles been reversed

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

By the time we set off my fingers were numb, took me a good half hour to get the feeling back. Sometimes my quest for a brew on a winters walk should really be curtailed

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

The weather was really indecisive, flirting between blue skies and deep black clouds and heavy snow showers.

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

The walk finishes with a climb up Castell Dinas – a brutually steep one at that but a very fine viewpoint to finish off a day in the Black and White Mountains

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

Black Mountains, castell dinas, mynydd troed, talgarth, waun fach, y grib, pen trumau, mynydd llysiau

A very fine walk this one, good to see it under some snow this time

Crug Mawr One Year On   4 comments

A repeat of a walk I did with TJS at the same time last year. This time he was off on a school trip to France and TJF was in a actting workshop. Me a TBF had a few hours to complete a walk before we picked her up. It was something of a brisk walk to make sure we got back in time to pick her up but it’s a fine walk. This year we stopped in the churchyard for lunch. There is a full write up at the link here so I’ve just included a few choice photos and slideshow for this version

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Top of the (local) world – Waun Fach, November 2013   8 comments

TJS had been hassling me for a “proper long walk” as we hadn’t been out together for a couple of months. We had a decent looking day so I took him on the the promised long route, a round of the Grwyne Fawr valley, taking in the highest summit in the Black Mountains, Waun Fach, the local high point.

10.5 Miles

10.5 Miles

It was perishing cold and windy when we set off but with blue skies overhead.

After a steep start through more of the dark, primeval forest that cloaks the lower slopes round these parts we emerged blinking into the bright sunlight. The summits were shrouded in clouds but there was clear sky elsewhere so I was confident it would clear later and so it proved.

Grwyne Fawr Valley

Grwyne Fawr Valley

Across the soggy slopes up onto the ridge at the Blacksmiths Anvil. The views across the Gwyrne Fawr reservoir and dam were especially fine.

Grwyne Fawr Valley

From here the long broad ridge proceeds endlessly but easily over Twyn Talycefn to the Trig Pillar and un-named point overlooking the northern escarpment and Wye Valley. It had pretty much cleared now and it was a fine day.

Twyn Talycefn

Grwyne Fawr Valley, Pen y Gadair Fawr

Black Mountains

TJS is into his third year at High School now and is choosing his GCSEs. We chatted long about his options and the time was flying by. It’s really enjoyable to share these big days with him, and chance to catch up and talk as I’m out most of week working so glimpses of my kids are fleeting

We needed some lunch and pressed on looking for shelter. Unfortunately this area seems to be plagued by motocross riders and the damage was extensive turning what used to be a decent path into a 30m wide mess of ruts and mud. Quite why they have to come up here when there must be endless muddy farmers fields they can churn up I don’t know. They can have no idea of the damage a single bike can cause in seconds let alone in greater numbers. If the pattern continues many sections of these great hills will become irreparably damaged and impassable.

We wandered off piste and found a sheltered little spot on the western side overlooking Mynydd Troed where we’d walked last new year. The sun was already low in the sky with the short days so there was no time to linger. Low sunlight however means stunning views, highlighting the autumn browns to great effect

Black Mountains

Mynydd Troed

Black Mountains

Onto the broad summit of Waun Fach, the summit of the Black Mountains. Not as boggy as I remember it but a wild a lonely place nonetheless. TJS was pleased to reach the high point of his local hills.

Mynydd Troed

Waun Fach

Waun Fach, Pen y Gadair Fawr

Over more soggy ground to Pen y Gadair Fawr. It’s more prominent than Waun Fach with a distinctive flat top and always looks higher from wherever you see it. I’ll have to take the word of the OS that it’s 1m lower 🙂

Pen y Gadair Fawr

The way was enlivened by another motocross rider, spraying mud lavishly as he went, appalling and heartbreaking in equal measure.

The sun really was setting fast and the light streaming through the clouds was grand.

Brecon Beacons

Clee Hills

We’d done all the hard work though and it was a simple matter of plunging down the slopes to the road to get the car.

Brecon Beacons

TJS got his wish – a 10.5 mile walk possibly the longest he’s done. He keeps pace with me know so it’s only a matter of time before he’s waiting for me to catch up 🙂

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